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Minnesota is rich in blogs, and rich in alternative media such as The Uptake and Daily Planet.  Is another blog really needed?  Good question!   My main reason for setting it up is to have a place to archive and link to various emails and posts I’ve sent about Minnesota environmental issues. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: City must be diligent on solar


By Alan Muller

 Red Wing
The Legislature and the Public Utilities Commission have focused attention on the relationships between Xcel Energy and solar garden developers, but given little attention to the relationships between developers and “subscribers.” What would the contracts look like? What would the actual cost be? What protections would subscribers and landowners have if a developer failed? What are the true benefits to subscribers and investors?

Xce is obstructing the growth of solar capacity it does not control, including solar gardens. How this will play out is unclear, but Xcel usually seems to get its way.

There are at least two projects being promoted in Red Wing. Minnesota Community Solar seeks a special relationship with the city and is promoted by the Sustainability Commission. Since last October I have urged the city to exercise due diligence, investigate and consider competitive bidding.

Another project surfaced recently from Greenmark Solar, with principals including our former mayor and frac sand lobbyist Dennis Egan, Mark Andrew and Julie Jorgensen.

Andrew was Hennepin County Board chair and state DFL chair. He ran for mayor of Minneapolis, boasting of his role in promoting the downtown “HERC” garbage burner and lost.

Greenmark Solar is not GreenMark. The Greenmark Linkedin page says “GreenMark was founded in 2007 to help our partners deliver sustainable practices, products and services coupled with story-telling strategies to bring more awareness and support for sustainability.” Greenmark Solar, headed by Andrew and Jorgensen, was just founded in December 2014.

Jorgenson and husband Tom Micheletti have a long history as principals of Excelsior Energy, where they secured and spent over $40 million in public funds promoting the Mesaba Project, a coal gasification power plant on the Iron Range that — thankfully — didn’t materialize.

This $40 million came from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Iron Range Resources Board and a legislative disbursement from Xcel Energy’s Renewable Development Fund.

Minnesota citizens spent over seven years fighting this absurd project, which included high salaries for Jorgensen and Micheletti, a trip to Italy, imprinted golf balls, law school tuition, etc., all at public expense. (For the record, I testified against the Mesaba Project and my partner, Carol Overland, represented project opponents.)

During the special legislative session in 2003 a deal was struck: the Iron Range delegation would vote to allow Xcel Energy to have more nuclear waste storage (in Red Wing) if enough other legislators would support the Mesaba Project.

None of this history necessarily indicates a solar project promoted by Egan, Andrew, and Jorgensen would be bad for Red Wing. Multiple, competitive, solar garden projects would give residents a choice.

But residents, land owners and officials should proceed with great care and lock the public coffers tight.

It’s time to develop a solar garden ordinance with solid protections for residents, subscribers and the city itself.

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US House of Reps., most MN members, vote for Monsanto

Update:  It’s important to note that this bill is NOT about banning GMO foods, it’s ONLY about labeling so people can make their own decisions.


Action:  Contact Senators.

From the Organic Consumers Association:

DARK Day in D.C.

Yesterday, 275 members (see vote tally here) of the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of H.R. 1599, the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act. By voting for the DARK Act, these politicians voted against truth and transparency, against science, against the more than century-old right of states to legislate on matters relating to food safety and labeling.

They voted against the 90-percent of Americans who are in favor of mandatory labeling of GMOs. They voted against the producers of non-GMO foods.

They voted against you.

Now that the DARK Act has been approved by the House, we’ll have to stop it in the Senate. We have to move fast­because Monsanto is desperate to pass a bill that preempts mandatory GMO labeling laws at the state and federal levels, before Vermont’s GMO labeling law takes effect next year.

H.R. 1599 was sold to Congress via multi-million dollar public relations and lobbying campaigns built on lies and deception. The bill’s sole purpose is to support an industry–Monsanto’s poison-peddling industry–­that was founded on lies and deception from the get-go.

Were the Congress members who voted against you fooled by Monsanto’s slick, deceitful packaging of this so-called “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act”? Or did they simply vote with their wallets, stuffed full of biotech and junk food industry cash?

Continue Reading →

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“This $153,000 rattlesnake bite is everything wrong with American health care”



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EPA Community Air Monitoring Training Webinar

Webinar:  Thursday 9 July 2015, 09:00 AM – 12:30 PM [Note:  8 (not 10!) Central Time!] Continue Reading →

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Air Quality Index reaches 200 in St. Michael, Minnesota

Air Quality Index of 200 in St. Michael, MN, in July 6, 2015 at 1500

Air Quality Index of 200 in St. Michael, MN, in July 6, 2015 at 1500


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MPCA, Monday: “Air quality in the northern 2/3 of Minnesota is unhealthy for everyone.”


See “current conditions” here.

Conditions are reported as CODE RED–over 150–in Brainerd, Ely, and Virginia. Duluth is reporting 149. This is just for “fine particles (PM2.5). Ozone levels are low at the moment but are forecast to increase to CODE YELLOW levels later in the week.

Fine particles, ozone, heat, humidity and allergens (pollen, mold, etc.) are cumulative health stressors. Take the health threat seriously! Continue Reading →

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Bad air on the Fourth of July……

Image from KSTP:  https://www.facebook.com/KSTPTV/photos/a.384759236951.163883.313623491951/10153465445446952/?type=1 (Thanks to Carol Overland for locating this.)

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) sends us a warning:

“Poor air quality in central Minnesota due to forest fires in Canada” Continue Reading →

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“Big Ag is conquering Minnesota like a noxious, unkillable weed”

Here is a clear and powerful piece on the political/environmental nightmare confronting Minnesota, by Hannah Sayle, writing for CityPages.

When we add the evils of “big ag” to the evils of frac sand mining, the evils of sulfide mining, the evils of suburban sprawl, the evils of iron mining, and the evils of “bioenergy,” plus climate change, etc., what sort of a future are we looking at for Minnesota? What can we do about it? Could a revived environmental movement push back effectively against all this?  What can we realistically expect of regulatory agencies, constantly stomped by special interests when they do try?  Lots to think about …. and lots to do.



Big Ag is conquering Minnesota like a noxious, unkillable weed

Dip your paddle into Lake Crystal on some muggy afternoon, and it will return lathered in a soupy green slime. Each summer, algae sludge forms a thick seal on the water’s surface.

It’s toxic and cruelly pervasive. One dog died last month after being poisoned by Red Rock Lake in Douglas County. Three more were killed by the blue-green foam in 2014.

Children have been warned away: Touching or breathing in the foul-smelling toxin could bring on vomiting, rash, and liver damage. Continue Reading →

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Why do Minnesotans put up with this?

On June 23rd, the MPCA “Citizens’ Board” held its last meeting, the board having been abolished by the Minnesota Legislature with the consent of Governor Mark Dayton.

Some very smart, well-informed people must have written the environmental laws of Minnesota in the 1960s and 1970s.  The Citizens’ Board seems to have been designed to keep the MPCA from becoming overly bureaucratic, self-serving, and too closely tied to the interests it was supposed to regulate.  These, of course, are the normal evolutionary tendencies of a regulatory agency, kept down only by constant effort.  No wonder the Chamber and “big-ag,” etc, wanted the Citizens’ Board gone.

Back to the June 23rd meeting, in the basement boardroom of the MPCA, beginning at 9:00 am and ending about 6:30 pm. What I observed, having been there all day, seemed rather different from the media reports I have seen.  No need, however, to take my word for anything.  You can see many of the documents and watch video of the meeting here. Continue Reading →

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